Tag Archives: dances with dependency

Articles I'm digesting at the moment

While I keep track of the books I’m reading to the right I don’t often get to talk about the articles I’m reading and loving. Here are a few I’ve stumbled over in the past week that I’m still digesting.

1) Via Mike T, Obama and the dawn of the Fourth Republic by Michael Lind on the cycles of American progress and why the next 36 years are going to be very exciting.

During the first 36-year period of a republic, ambitious nation-builders in the tradition of Alexander Hamilton strengthen the powers of the federal government and promote economic modernization. During the second 36-year phase of a republic, there is a Jeffersonian backlash, in favor of small government, small business and an older way of life. During the backlash era, Jeffersonians manage to modify, but never undo, the structure created by the Hamiltonians in the previous era.

2) Via Alo, Why Canada has to wait for it’s Obama Moment, by Jeff Roberts. A piece few Canadians would be willing to write about why the politics of Aboriginals and the rest of Canada remain separated.

In the case of black Americans, their ascension to the political mainstream came in part from leaving behind talk of rights and identity and embracing a postracial style of politics. Barack Obama’s rise has followed his willingness to move away from the swamp of identity politics.

It’s a thesis that parallels that of Calvin Helin’s in Dances with Dependency that I thoroughly enjoyed. Moreover, Roberts is only half right. There is an emerging generation of (particularly urban) First Nations who are going to transform the politics of both the First Nations community and Canada.

3) Via Jeff A, Printing The NYT Costs Twice As Much As Sending Every Subscriber A Free Kindle by Nicholas Carlson . Shocked? You should be. As the author concludes:

Are we trying to say the the New York Times should force all its print subscribers onto the Kindle or else? No. That would kill ad revenues and also, not everyone loves the Kindle.

What we’re trying to say is that as a technology for delivering the news, newsprint isn’t just expensive and inefficient; it’s laughably so.

Besides, think of the forests that would be saved.

4) Via Amy L, The $300 Million Dollar Button, by Jared Spool. As Amy said to me, “you’re a believer in small changes” which I am. Very often I find people jump for the big lever to create big change which often creates numerous unanticipated (and almost always unwanted) changes. I’m much more interested in finding the small lever that creates big change. This piece is about precisely one of those moments in the design of a webpage.

It’s hard to imagine a form that could be simpler: two fields, two buttons, and one link. Yet, it turns out this form was preventing customers from purchasing products from a major e-commerce site, to the tune of $300,000,000 a year. What was even worse: the designers of the site had no clue there was even a problem.

Canada's racial stalemate

Calvin Helin author of Dances with DependencyThe other week – as virtually everybody is now aware – Obama gave his much celebrated speech on the racial stalemate in America.

Here in Canada we have a stalemate as well. It is discussed less frequently (if at all) then the American stalemate Obama spoke of, and it does not fall along clearly delineated racial lines. I am speaking of the stalemate between First Nations and the rest of Canada. On page 157 0f his book “Dances with Dependency: Indigenous Success through Self-Reliance” (if you don’t have a copy I highly recommend picking one up), aboriginal rights activist Calvin Helin writes a paragraph that parallels the sentiment of Obama’s speech.

When chronicling and discussing the very real problem of abuses of power, mismanagement, nepotism and corruption found on some First Nation band councils, Helin notes:

Aboriginal people are reluctant to speak publicly about these issues because they do not wish to provide grist for the political right in Canada who many feel are racist, and have no real interest in actually trying to make the situation better (though often there is a sizable, but silent contingent that supports the publication of such issues in what might be considered right-of-centre publications, because they are regarded as only telling the truth and trying to make things better for the ordinary Aboriginal folks). Generally, non-aboriginal observers have been reluctant to raise this issue as well because, in the current climate of political correctness, they might automatically be labelled as racists. Even the many Chiefs and Councils that are running honest governments in the best interests of their members feel compelled to defend against such reported abuses, because they fear their activities may become tarred with a brush that does not apply in their particular circumstances. Usually when this matter is raised publicly, there are entrenched positions on both sides of the debate and little communications as to how to solve these problems. (my own italics)

While this hardly captures the entire dynamic, it highlights an important dimension of Canada’s racial stalemate.  That anger and guilt in both communities – aboriginals and non-aboriginals – can sometime build narratives about the other that reinforce their mutual distrust and preventing us from reaching out and finding a way to address what is our country’s most important challenges.

I suspect this stalemate will not last. A new force could be about to completely alter this debate. A new generation – a demographic tsunami in fact – of smart, educated, and motivated young First Nation is about to crest over this country (While Calvin Helin is an excellent example, he is much older than the cohort I’m thinking of). I’m not sure that non-aboriginal leaders – and, to be frank, current aboriginal leaders – are even aware of what is about to hit them. Gauging from those I have met and befriended, this cohort is frustrated, but motivated, organized and very pragmatic. But perhaps, most importantly, they increasingly urban and, not as tied to the power structures of the reserves or chiefs. In this regard they transcend the discussion, living in, and comfortable in, both the aboriginal and non-aboriginal domain. One way or another they are will redefine this debate.